What we read this week (22 November)

Our favorite articles of this week. Have a great weekend.

Articles of the week

  • What Screens Want
    Brilliant web essay by Frank Chimero, and not only because he features James Burke and The West Wing. I bet that this one will come up in a lot of conversations in the next months.
  • Prada Revolutionaries
    “Bright Green has become the left's version of right-wing transhumanism: an excuse to not solve today's problems, because tomorrow's technology will fix them for us.”
  • Tom Armitage » Driftwood
    “Driftwood is a talk I gave at Playark 2013. It was meant to be a talk about leftovers (the theme of the conference being ‘reclaim’), and about Hello Lamp Post. In the writing, it turned into a broader overview of my own work – on six years of projects around cities and play.”
  • Meet The ‘Assassination Market’ Creator Who’s Crowdfunding Murder With Bitcoins – Forbes
    “Assassination Market, a crowdfunding service that lets anyone anonymously contribute bitcoins towards a bounty on the head of any government official–a kind of Kickstarter for political assassinations.”
  • Ross Andersen – Humanity’s deep future
    "When we peer into the fog of the deep future what do we see – human extinction or a future among the stars?"
  • Bitcoin As Protocol | Union Square Ventures
    “There is no other widely used protocol in the world today that accomplishes this: with bitcoin anyone can make a statement (a transaction) and have this be recorded in a globally visible and fixed ledger.”
  • Content economics, part 4: scale | Felix Salmon
    "It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of the CMS when it comes to the question of who’s going to win the online-publishing wars."
  • InMoov » Project
    "Here is “InMoov”, the first life size humanoid robot you can 3D print and animate. You have a 3D printer, some building skills, This project is for you!!"
  • Apple and Google Maps, and Defaults | Matt Mullenweg
    “If Microsoft did this a decade ago we’d call for the DoJ to reopen their investigation. Apple has the best phone, best tablet, and in many ways the best operating system — we should not give them a pass for this blatantly self-interested and user-hostile stance.”
  • Instagram and Youtube — Benedict Evans
    "WhatsApp and Instagram are not in different categories – they're direct competitors for time and attention." – This spot on.

What we read this week (May 3)

How robots are eating our jobs, Mailbox’s Gentry Underwood on his app and design thinking, why it’s weird when technology turns your body into an interface, how Facebook designs the “perfect empty vessel” into which you pour your content, and how the internet is both destroying and creating middlemen.

Quote of the week

Broad dissemination and individual choice turn most technologies into a plus. If only the elites have access, it’s a dystopia.

Ramez Naam

Articles of the week

What we read this week (1 Feb)

What makes Vine mundane and fascinating at once, the huge scale of Google’s redesign, A List Apart’s learnings from 2012, an algorithmic StumbleUpon and why failure may not be so great after all.

Quote of the week

Amazon […] is a charitable organization being run by elements of the investment community for the benefit of consumers.

Matthew Yglesias

Articles of the week

Interview with Conor Delahunty

Third in a series of interviews with people whose work we admire: designer Conor Delahunty. Conor tells us what pop songs have to do with service design, how the state of the recruitment industry is like Gotham City, and gives us a peek at what he’s working on at Somewhere.

Conor (@conordelahunty) is a designer working at Somewhere. Recently arrived in Berlin, he previously worked for Made by Many in London. He likes the internet a lot.

Conor Delahunty

What are you working on?
Right now I work for a new company called Somewhere. Somewhere is looking at the (pretty massive) problem that is how people find work that matters to them. We like to say we’re designing a service for humans, not human resources. That means we focus on people and the way that they talk to each other, not technology. But if we are to tackle this problem properly, that also means we have to build brand new tools and infrastructure! Catch-22, but I think we’re figuring out the balance. We were running a beta for a while and have just rolled out our first product. Baby steps right now but hopefully the next release will be a much bigger one.

How do you see the current state of affairs in the employment market?
I think it’s like in Batman Begins, you know! Ra’s al Ghul thinks Gotham is beyond saving, and that it must be allowed to die. I feel the same way about the recruitment industry. It’s a massively inefficient, deeply impersonal, cripplingly expensive, broken system. We know that people’s relationship to their work, their ambitions, their mobility, etc. is changing drastically. It needs a fresh start, a whole new way of thinking about the problem and what people really want out of it. I’m inclined to think we should just ignore the industry rather than save or change it! To quote Clay Shirky (I know, I know!), “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution”.

What do you want to change about that through your work?
Studs Terkel has said about work, “It’s about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash.” If we can design a thoughtful, humane service that helps people with that search I’ll be very happy. We want people to find the people that they should be working with.

What other topics have become interesting to you lately, and why?

Pop Songs
I do lots of service ecology mapping and user journeys and all these other dry-sounding exercises to try and make sense of what we should be doing. When I’m making them though, I keep thinking about pop songs. I think a great service is like a great pop song. Introduce a catchy idea, keep it bubbling along, hit people with an irresistible chorus every now and again, keep it brief enough that it leaves people wanting more, etc. etc. So I’ve decided to just write pop songs instead making flow diagrams! It’s way more fun.

Gaps
How do you design and build little gaps and broken spaces into things that encourage people to do something unexpected with the product/service you have created? Twitter and MySpace were full of these little gaps and that why I think they did well. When people are moulding the experience to their needs you get a much stronger sense of ownership. I like the fact that you don’t even really have a choice now either. IFTTT allows you to pull services apart and only use the bits that interest you.

3D Printing
I’m not really interested in the printing side of things right now but more so the impact it could have on our mindset. If people get used to being an integral part of the entire lifecycle of a product (i.e. creation, distribution, consumption, etc.), what does that do to a generation? What will they then want from products and service or even institutions? How will people approach boring things like banking or mobile phone contracts when they think or even know that they should be allowed to have a huge impact on how the system works, or that they should be allowed to just take the small bit that they see as valuable?

Architecture of home icons
I’d love to do an architectural review of home icons from popular sites and apps. I want to know what types of houses these companies are building for people and what that might say about what these companies think of their users.

Diversions 1994-1996 by Lee Gamble
I’m getting a bit lost inside this record. It makes me nostalgic for a time I was neither a part of nor had any real interest in! He took a load of samples off of his old Jungle mixtapes and made these hazy ambient memories out of them. Reminds me of “Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore.”

Mariachi Connecticut Serenades a Beluga Whale
It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen on the internet. I can’t stop watching it. Bizarre, tender and beautiful.

What does your media diet currently consist of?
It’s pretty standard I guess. Twitter is the backbone; I’m always on it and it’s where I discover 80-90% of everything these days. My favourite account right now is @SeinfeldToday. For example: “Jerry breaks up with a beautiful woman because she favorites every one of his tweets. Kramer and Newman start a podcast.” Perfect. I also love Tumblr and I listen to tons of podcasts.

Oh yeah, I use Reading.am all the time. It’s just a big list of what people are reading right now. I always find a few gems in there every day. I urge you all to sign up. It’s really lovely. I don’t really buy too many magazines anymore, usually only when I’m flying. Stuart Eccles (@stueccles) once told me that he thinks the 20 minutes after take-off and before landing when you’re not allowed to use an electronic device will be the last dying breath of the magazine industry!

Interviews in this series:

  1. Caroline Drucker
  2. Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino
  3. Conor Delahunty


What we read this week (30 Nov)

The Reads this week: well-designed products as magicians’ acts, shopper bots, what successful publishing looks like today, launching a product web-first vs mobile-first, and how people go about adopting new technologies.

Quote of the week

If we define anxiety as experiencing failure in advance, we can also understand its antonym, anticipation.

Seth Godin

Articles of the week

What we read this week (26 Oct)

This week we read about that the continuity of thought is not necessarily a positive thing, geopolitics of energy, the Micheal Brutsch and Reddit case, drones and the modern design.

Quote of the week

(…)the smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved.

Jeff Bezos

Articles of the week

  • 37signals: Some advice from Jeff Bezos
    We tend to criticize people who are like a flag in the wind, i.e. changeable, but Jeff Bezos serves us a completely different view on that. He believes the smartest people are those whose regularly change and revise their opinions.
  • Steve Le Vine: Ten indicators you should watch to predict the geopolitics of energy
    Hillary Clinton said that global occurrences connected to the energy supply often result in weighty geopolitical consequences. They lead to disharmony in the power division across the globe. Often, but not always. Not all of the events have an impact on the geopolitics. In order to learn how to distinguish them, Steve Le Vine came up with a set of 10 indicators which might help us understand what event may lead to a serious geopolitical disruption.
  • Lauren Weinstein: An Internet Monster, Reddit, and Free Speech
    Even though it is not the easiest for the author to write about certain topics, he decided he needed to make a firm stand. Lauren picked up the very important subject of free speech and responsibility of the online social media services, which provide an audience and a certain type of nourishing feedback for some nasty thinkers to thrive on. The Michael Brutsch and Reddit case.
  • BookTwo: Under the Shadow of the Drone
    James Bridle writes about the drones and describes the network they are a part of. He also points at very important issues connected with the usage of a drone: how we all now live under the shadow of a drone, even if we can’t see it, how the technology of obscuration and violence boldly makes its way into our daily lives.
  • Helge Tennø: How do we design for the everyware
    Helge Tennø’s insightful slideshow where he dissects the idea of the “design”, discusses the common mistakes the past and the modern designers keep committing without learning from each other and points out that it is not the visuals that matter, but the behavior that should determine the way in the design.

What we read this week (24 Aug)

Reads on the topics of robots replacing human precision, designing platform-specific e-books, setting the right pace for sharing and media consumption, what startup workers can learn from master craftsmen, and how the social sciences are changing.

Quotes of the week

I believe it’s time to envision another community of the future—one slightly less dystopian than all information and media pouring down on our heads, whether it be night or day, whether it makes sense for that content to travel at high frequencies or not.

Hannah Donovan

Articles of the week

  • Edge: A New Kind of Social Science for the 21st Century
    Nicholas Christakis discusses how the way we study people is changing as a result of “a biological hurricane, computational social sciences and the rediscovery of experimentation,” and how these factors may even be changing the people themselves.
  • Amy Hoy: Why Blacksmiths are Better at Startups than You
    Amy Hoy shows us, using the example of a BBC series called Mastercrafts, what psychological hurdles entrepreneurs have to overcome, why these obstacles exist, and what conclusions one has to reach to begin doing real work.
  • A List Apart: Everything in its Right Pace
    Hannah Donovan, designer of music products Last.fm and ThisIsMyJam.com, makes some great observations about the pace at which we process different kinds of information, and explains why slowing things down can create new value.
  • New York Times: Skilled Work, Without the Worker
    Machines – robots – aren’t a new phenomenon in manufacturing, but they are new to areas where they replace human precision. A whole new wave of robotic manufacturing is emerging.
  • Craig Mod: Platforming Books
    In this long, detailed and rather beautiful article, Craig Mod outlines the thought and execution processes behind designing platform-specific electronic editions of his book, Art Space Tokyo (co-written by Ashley Rawlings). He also gives his take on the state of e-publishing and what gaps he sees that should be filled.

What we read this week (29 Jun)

Computers recognizing cats, Bruce Sterling on the New Aesthetic, a primer on networked cities, the inner workings of Anonymous, and the Manufactured Normalcy Field.

Quotes of the week

Great collaborations don’t start in boardrooms.
They start in restaurants.

jeffstaple

Articles of the week

  • Ideas for Dozens: Designing for and against the manufactured normalcy field
    Based on a Ribbonfarm article, which we featured a couple of weeks ago, NYU’s Greg Borenstein and BERG London’s Matt Webb ran a Foo Camp session, which Peter attended, on the so-called Manufactured Normalcy Field, and how it relates to designing everyday products. The post is a rough writeup, capturing the essence of the group brainstorm. Good stuff indeed.
  • David Albert Cox: Playfulness and Processuality
    Two and a half months ago, Bruce Sterling published his essay on the New Aesthetic and propelled it onto the big stage. Now, David Albert Cox catches up with Sterling to get his latest thoughts on the movement and James Bridle.
  • The Economist: The laws of the city
    Based on data collected about cities and the behavioral patterns of their inhabitants in broad terms, we’re able to learn about the way cities grow and change. This article offers a good general introduction to the theme of networked cities, and shows us some ways in which the increasing abundance of urban data is being put to use.
  • Wired: How Anonymous Picks Targets, Launches Attacks, and Takes Powerful Organizations Down
    This fascinating article by Quinn Norton on the inner workings of Anonymous and its involvement in politics offers insight into the evolution of both the movement and the internet culture. Should you like to read more on the subject, there is also an interesting writeup on the TED blog of observations made by Gabriella Coleman, an anthropologist who studied the group for years.
  • New York Times: How Many Computers to Identify a Cat? 16,000
    A network of 16,000 computer processors was fed 10 million random image thumbnails from YouTube videos. In an impressive feat of machine learning, the network “basically invented the concept of a cat,” says Dr Jeff Dean of Google’s X lab. One step close of computers emulating the human brain.

Week 88

A peep into the newbie’s mind after her first full week at Third Wave.

Starting out at Third Wave

I started working at Third Wave officially last week, and am delighted to be here. I haven’t had much adapting to do so far, seeing as I worked here two days a week for the last six months. One aspect of working in a small shop as compared to a mid-sized agency stands out to me: here, in a small team that fits nicely into one reasonably sized room, it can’t help but be personal. We share values and common interests – this is how we came to work together. In a bigger team, it is unlikely for the organizational glue to be quite as strong. The glue helps to create a sense of mutual support, which in turn helps to get things done, and realize when things aren’t working. Also, the nature and size of the team combine to make it an open space for expressing thoughts, concerns, ideas, questions – largely as they come up, rather than saving them up for meetings. I’m uncertain as to whether this is possible in larger teams.

Challenges

Some adjustments have to be made gradually. Becoming familiar with some of the tasks that crop up regularly is one thing, being efficient at getting them done is another. Writing relevant and coherent texts in a foreign language takes practice, and I’m increasingly impressed by how my colleagues manage it so successfully. I have to say I really enjoy the bilingual aspect of work here, and hope that I’ll make more use of the opportunity to sneak German lessons in here and there throughout the day. Another gradual adjustment is taking the reins myself, coming up with plans and executing them (relatively) independently. There is a kind of fear associated with doing this, and this also takes a bit of practice to overcome.

Dorota is our new trainee for VCCP, and we’ll be introducing her shortly. I’m helping out with her training, and have now found myself on the lower end of a learning curve when it comes to guiding a person in her job, figuring out how to best answer her questions, how best to make the big picture and not just the details clear. This in turn exposes gaps in my own knowledge, which is helpful. It’s also an interesting, tricky process, learning how to function on a professional level with a close friend.

I’m also encountering some new, more structured approaches to research. Jasmine has filled a wall with post-its, outlining a business model, competition, and ideas for improvement or ‘white spaces’ into which the business could expand/evolve. She’s used the scheme from the Business Model Generation book to structure her findings. It’s helpful to see information from a business/design perspective, since these are both things I have much to learn about.

Approaches to research

Last week, we were doing some market research for a new project related to stationery and pens. It’s funny how we automatically begin to research these things on the internet, without considering, at first, the option of looking for the products in person, to get a better idea of how customers might see them. At the office supply store around the corner, I had a look at some products, looked for patterns and trends, tried to identify what features make a stationery product good or attractive. I talked to the saleswoman about what products she sells, what ones the customers particularly like, her thoughts about the brand we’re working on. This kind of research yields very quick results, and can nicely complement what we find on the internet to give us a more complete initial impression of what we’re working with.

Stationery is an interesting field for a digital strategist to work in. Perhaps, and I believe this has been said before, we gravitate towards things like nice notebooks and pens in order to balance out our typey-screeny lives with things that have a more concrete, haptic appeal. In any case, I am a massive fan of stationery, and this project should turn out to be really fun once it gets going.

What we read this week (23 Mar)

Nicholas Felton talks about Facebook’s Timeline design, online behavior tracking is a collective bargain, and while Google rethinks their Wallet strategy, Sweden is considering getting rid of cash altogether.

Quotes of the week

The challenge is no longer the technology, the challenge is in running a successful business and getting those products in people’s hands in ways that feel natural, useful and delightful.

Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino

“optimized for retinas.” Kinda describes present-day tech strategy in general. I bet we’ll remember our other senses soon enough though.

Kyle Cameron Studstill

Articles of the week

  • Domus: An interview with Nicholas Felton
    Interviewed by Dan Hill, Nicholas Felton, data visualizer extra-ordinnaire, explains some of the thinking and process behind Facebook’s Timeline design.
  • The Atlantic: It’s Not All About You: What Privacy Advocates Don’t Get About Data Tracking on the Web
    Helpful reflections on the deeper implications of online behavioral tracking. Let this quote show the framing: “The privacy discourse frames the issue in an ego-centric manner, as a bargain between consumers and companies: the company will know x, y and z about me and in exchange I get free email, good recommendations, and a plethora of convenient services. But the bargain that we are making is a collective one, and the costs will be felt at a societal scale.”
  • Bloomberg: Google Said to Rethink Wallet Strategy Amid Slow Adoption
    Google Wallet sees a very slow adoption rate. Beside the fact that the technology – as in mobile devices with NFC chips – haven’t really hit the market that heavily, Google sees also a problem in convincing carriers to accept their technology. The main reason for this: the mobile payment market is expected to grow quickly and into billions of revenues. The carriers want a piece of that cake and Google isn’t providing them with an incentive to use their technology instead of something that the carriers can build for themselves.
  • AP: In Sweden, cash is king no more
    Sweden was the first nation that introduced cash money and it is now the first to openly discuss of getting rid of it too. A world without cash might seem inevitable, but it’s not quite here yet, and there is privacy to consider as well: Without cash, there is no way of paying for anything without being tracked.
  • Striding with ITV into the future of news
    Made by Many launched the new version of the ITV News site and are covering their work for it on their company blog. They focussed the project on the question of “What would news be like if we had networked digital media (and digital cameras and phones and laptops) but there had never been newspapers or broadcast TV news programmes?” Tons of great insights about how to develop digital products in this series of articles.